Big box stores can be intimidating. Aside from their size, these companies also have deeper pockets, larger workforces, and plenty of resources to implement sophisticated technologies or strategies in their stores.
But just because retail giants have all that fancy stuff doesn’t mean that small to medium businesses can’t compete. As an SMB, you too can access—and afford—the advanced retail solutions that larger retailers have.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the latest trends and technologies that the big guys are investing in, and talk about how SMBs can keep up.
Being omnichannel—that is, letting customers shop across multiple platforms and devices—is becoming increasingly prominent and will likely be the norm in a few years. Retail behemoths such as Walmart, Target, and Nordstrom are already implementing services such as click-and-collect and ship-from-store to give shoppers more flexibility with the way they shop.
Additionally, many retail chains are offering to “find” items for customers when particular products aren’t available in-store. At Ann Taylor, for example, shoppers who can’t find the size or color that they’re looking for can have an associate locate the item in other locations, then ship it to her directly.
The good news is, you don’t need to have Walmart’s budget to offer these same services in your business. All you need is the right POS and inventory management system, and you too can be a slick omnichannel retailer.
Menswear store Number Six is a great example of a retailer implementing omnichannel. Number Six has both a brick-and-mortar shop and an ecommerce site, and they’re able to provide a seamless online-to-offline shopping experience through services like click-and-collect.
Number Six accomplishes this by integrating their offline point of sale with their online store. Since data is synced across the two platforms, sales and customer information are automatically updated and Number Six can track and fulfill orders with ease.
As you can see, selecting an ecommerce solution that works with your POS system is critical to running an omnichannel operation. You’ll want your online shop to accurately reflect your in-store inventory at all times, so you can efficiently fulfill online and offline orders.
One way to do this is to integrate your offline POS and inventory system with your online shopping cart. See to it that the systems can “talk” to each other and share inventory and customer data in real-time.
Another option is to use just one POS and inventory management system for your online and offline stores.
Sitka, an apparel retailer in New Zealand, does this by using Vend as their point of sale and ecommerce solution. Doing so enables the retailer to stay on top of both online and offline inventory using just one system, so they always have a centralized view of their products.
This makes inventory management a lot easier, since they don’t have to go back and forth between their online and offline solutions.
As Sitka’s Andrew Howson put it, “Managing a single product catalog means we’ve eliminated our problem of double entry into multiple platforms. Perfect inventory syncing saves many hours of cutting, pasting, and stock updating.”
Sitka’s robust system not only lets them sell and manage products across their physical and digital stores, it also allows them to offer services such as “Pick up from warehouse” on their ecommerce site, so customers won’t have to pay for shipping.
Same day delivery
With so many on-demand services (i.e. Uber for on-demand rides, Netflix or on-demand shows), consumers have become accustomed to instant gratification. They want faster fulfillment when it comes to the services they need, and they’re starting to expect that same speed from the retailers that they buy from.
This is why same day delivery is such a hot trend in retail these days. Customers want to get their hands on their orders as quickly as possible, and in response, retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Macy’s are rolling out same day delivery in select markets.
And thanks to retail-friendly delivery services, local merchants can also get in on the same day delivery fun. Companies such as Deliv and Shutl are now enabling retailers to add a same day shipping option at checkout. Deliv even caters to brick-and-mortar stores who want to give shoppers the convenience of same day delivery. Stores that are selling heavy items, for example, can offer the service at the checkout counter so customers won’t have to lug around their purchases.
In a world where customers have tons of options when it comes to where to buy, offering same day delivery could be just the differentiator you need to tip the scale. That’s why if you’re looking to offer the service, check out the companies above and see if they cater to businesses in your area.
For quite some time now, retailers have been using Instagram to showcase their products and connect with customers. But over the past year or so, merchants—particular large fashion retailers—have been using Instagram to actually sell merchandise.
Nordstrom and Target, for example, are using a service called Like2Buy to make their Instagram feeds more shoppable.
Here’s how it works: A customer who’d like to purchase an item she sees on the retailer’s feed can tap on the Like2Buy link found on the store’s Instagram profile. Clicking the link will take her to the retailer’s Like2Buy site, which looks similar to its Instagram page. When the shopper taps on an image, she’ll be taken directly to its product page, where she can find more details and proceed to checkout.
Fortunately, there are a number of Instagram selling solutions in the market that SMBs can use. In addition to Like2Buy, there’s also Soldsie, which enables merchants to sell products through Instagram comments.
Shoppers simply need to comment “sold” when they see a photo of an item they want to buy, and Soldsie will automatically generate an invoice for the transaction and send it to the customer.
The service makes it extremely convenient both for buyers and sellers to conduct business. Soldsie eliminates manual steps such as checking comments and creating invoices, so retailers can spend more time on other parts of their business. Shoppers, for their part, also get a better experience, since Soldsie lets them start a transaction without having to leave the Instagram app.
A great example of Instagram selling in action can be seen in TopShelf Style, a clothing boutique in San Francisco that uses Soldsie’s comment-selling solution.
Many major stores—including Whole Foods and Walgreens—are now accepting mobile payments (specifically Apple Pay) at their stores, making it more convenient for customer to pay.
What’s great about mobile payments is that it isn’t a technology that’s reserved solely for large retail chains. You too can start accepting mobile payments at your store, simply by upgrading your equipment.
Take for instance, LifeLine Repairs, a retail chain that provides repair services for electronic devices. LifeLine recently upgraded their payment terminals to become EMV-ready, and in the process, the retailer also became Apple Pay ready because they’re now using equipment that supports NFC—the technology that powers Apple Pay.
If you’re looking to accept mobile payments, talk to your POS vendor and payment processor and ask about the devices they support, as well as the steps you need to take to upgrade your technology.
Are you investing in any retail trends? Share your thoughts in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.